Avoid the App Trap: Why Mobile Won’t Move the Needle Without a Proper Strategy
By Jeff Weidauer, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Vestcom
The mobile opportunity has been the biggest news to hit retail since the fall and faltering rise of the economy—and marketers have been pulling out all the stops to get into the game. The benefits of mobile are many, and they are real. We don’t know at this juncture what the actual impact of mobile will be, or how it will change the way retail goes to market, but there is no question that the impact will be significant.
It seems there is a new release of a retailer mobile app every day, or a new manufacturer app, all designed to capitalize on the ever-growing market for apps that will enhance our lives. Of course, there are a half-million or so apps already competing for attention and space, and the level of expectation for what an app should deliver is constantly being raised.
Talk of mobile strategies is everywhere as well; if we aren’t developing a mobile strategy or implementing a mobile strategy or refining a mobile strategy, we feel like we’re not staying current and the ship of mobile is sailing with us still standing on the shore.
However, right now the shore may be a good place to be—at least as far as mobile is concerned. There is so much movement and so many changes coming so quickly that placing bets on what the landscape will look like in 12 months, or even in the third quarter, is about as easy as picking a winning lottery number.
It’s true that consumers are engaging with mobile in ways we could never have imagined just a few years ago. This activity is enticing to be sure, but it’s not as if this is a short-term change in behavior. Mobile is here to stay, and while the temptation to jump on board now is strong, good things will come to those who think and plan before taking the leap.
Let’s start with a mobile strategy: No one needs one. Yes, I said it.
What’s needed instead is a marketing strategy that incorporates the benefits of mobile. Keep in mind that mobile is just a medium—a very powerful one, but a medium nonetheless. The real value of mobile lies in its always-on, always-connected and always-with-me status. And that means mobile is best used to connect and thereby make more effective all the other touchpoints that are critical tactics in a marketing strategy.
New technology is always exciting, and this is especially the case with something like mobile where the consumer is driving it versus a corporate entity. We eagerly await the next version of the iPhone, or the newest Android or Blackberry. The desire to be part of that excitement is understandable. But when technology drives outcomes, trouble awaits. If the desired outcome isn’t already clear, then implementing some shiny new vehicle, no matter how exciting, isn’t going to clarify the goals.
The best approach is to start with the end in mind, i.e. the shopper, and determine the desired outcomes for all shopper engagements. Look at the current value proposition and make sure it’s viable and relevant. Map out the various touchpoints and see how, or if, they support one another. That is where mobile comes in—to provide the connectivity across the media landscape and ultimately the user feedback to help gauge success.
Once the time is right to introduce mobile, the real work begins. While getting an app onto shoppers’ phones is a marketing challenge in itself, the hardest part doesn’t start until that app is effectively deployed and shoppers are engaging with it. At that point, the data flow starts. And it’s that data flow that constitutes the true gold dust of the mobile world. Plans need to be set ahead of time to manage the flow, and the processes and resources to mine that data for insights must be in place ahead of time. This isn’t something the IT department can do in its spare time. Expertise is critical or the entire exercise could be for naught.
Finally, once the insights are teased out of the data and a plan of action is developed, there is the execution of the plan to consider. How will you activate the insights and integrate a clear, consistent and compelling message to the shopper across all the touchpoints using mobile as the glue to connect the dots?
Loyalty card programs are a great example of the need to consider how the plan will be executed. There is a long list of retailers that collect shopper data via a loyalty card but have no idea what to do with the data gathered or how to act upon the insights. The card has become an albatross, costing millions to manage but doing little beyond requiring shoppers to use it to get the sale price, and no one gets any true benefit.
This is the landmine that retailers rushing to market with a mobile app but with no broad marketing strategy are about to step on. The proper way to navigate a minefield is to very carefully plan and gather as much knowledge as possible before taking that first step. The mobile field offers tremendous benefits, but only for those who know what’s on the other side and are prepared before they begin the journey.
Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom International Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. He can be reached at jweidauer_@_vestcom.com, or visit www.vestcom.com.
Published: April 4, 2011 By: